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2023-07-11 installation meeting



  • User database - Database containing user data (shows up in UI)
  • Internal database - Database containing metadata used internally by the software (doesn’t show up in UI)

1st Persona: Someone Trying out Mathesar quickly, with Docker


  • They have docker
  • Want to try things out locally
  • Won’t keep this installation long-term


  • Single Docker image
    • Postgres inside
    • Secret key generated with no interaction
    • Side benefit: support older Docker versions (since our compatibility issues are with docker compose)
  • Should we have a second Docker image without Postgres?
    • For connecting to remote DBs
    • This seems for a different persona
    • Also, connecting to local DBs (vs. remote DBs) from a Docker container is much harder for Linux
  • Config files vs. environment variables
    • Research into similar products indicates users wants config files that can be overridden by environment variables
    • Config files can be put into protected locations (e.g. not readable by other users on the system)
    • Config file will live in the container, not the host system
    • Environment variables doesn’t make sense for this persona
    • We can pass environment variables when running the image if needed, and they would persist in the config file in the Docker filesystem
  • What do we need environment variables for?
    • Binding volumes?
      • Not needed for this persona
      • If they want to transition installation to long term solution, that would be different, but we’re not recommending that anyway
      • We could have docs for “you lost your container, how to get your data”
    • Using different ports?
  • For this persona, it’s about speed to get Mathesar running
  • What about users who want to try it out quickly by connecting to an existing DB?
    • Pass config via environment variables
    • Write config file via UI, persist to disk.

Installing Mathesar on PaaS (one-click, frictionless)

  • Need a lean image without a DB for this
  • We want to wire Mathesar up to managed DB services
  • We need to decide what PaaS to target
    • Should be frictionless
    • Managed Postgres would be helpful
  • Additional work we might need to do, on a per-platform basis:
    • Add Mathesar to their installer system
    • Add platform-specific details to our documentation
  • Which platforms should we target?
    • Mukesh has not yet done research into this
  • Pavish: We should consider the possibilty that users might want multiple instances of Mathsar running on the same PaaS. How will we acheive this if we use a config file?
    • Kriti: “I’m sure this is a solved problem”
    • Pavish: Mathesar might be unique in that we are planning to allow the application to modify the config file
  • Pavish: What are we storing in the config file?
    • Mukesh: it would be the same as all the ENV vars
  • Pavish: Do we even need the config file?
    • Mukesh: it’s important for persistance. It’s important in the case when you have Mathesar running behind a load balancer. Config file is meant only for running one instance of Mathesar
  • Brent: I’m not convinced that horizontal scaling is a huge priority right now. In that case, the stuff that you’s want to persist would be in the database anyway.
  • Kriti: PaaS platforms often have their own systems for persisting private data like “secret key” and similar.
  • Where do we store the database connection credentials?
    • PaaS service doesn’t necessarily have access to modify files on disk, so we would need to store the user DB credentials in the internal DB.
    • How do we secure the credentials that we’re storing in the Django DB?
  • We either:
    • Need to store connection credentials in the internal DB
    • OR: we need to give up support for editing DB connections through the UI.
  • We need to do more research on how to store connection credentials
  • Brent: If we can solve the problem of securely storing the connection credentials in the internal DB, then we solve a huge class of problems that apply to many different personas

Next steps

  • What does Mukesh need in order to write up a project?
  • Sean: concerned that we’re not looking at the high level of “reducing total number of personas”
  • Kriti: we’ve reduced the number of personas through prioritization
  • Solving PaaS well could help solve other personas too
  • Kriti reccomends:
    • Work towards implementing the “Single Docker Image” approach
    • Continue research on other approaches
    • Fine to focus on other research and implementation that would seem to improve other personas too, e.g. Zipapps, etc.
    • By the end of the cycle, we should have a plan for what personas we’re doing and the implementation plan for them
  • Mukesh will write up project
  • Kriti & Mukesh will discuss next steps and schedule another call